Oriental: 51 posts

Perfume and Orientalism

In my weekly FT column Scents of the East, I’m taking an oriental family to task. What makes perfumes “oriental”? What does this term mean? Is it any useful?

ft

The world of perfume press releases is one in which Edward Said never wrote Orientalism. Odalisques lounge in the incense-scented harems of marketers’ imaginations. The Mughals are still ruling India, and the Arabian Desert is a vast expanse of golden sands populated with handsome explorers – no oil wells in sight. There is even a fragrance family called “oriental”. Please continue here.

I also offer some of my favorite examples of fragrances classified as “oriental,” and I look forward to hearing about yours.

Image via FT

Tom Ford Noir Extreme : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on Tom Ford Noir Extreme and olfactory desserts for men (and not only).

First there was Thierry Mugler Angel, widely credited with creating both the gourmand and “fruitchouli” categories; perfumer Olivier Cresp poured ethylmaltol – the smell of burnt sugar – into a patchouli-heavy oriental base, starting a craze for caramel in perfume that hasn’t much slowed in 20 years. Then came Angel’s counterpart A*Men, also released in 1996, making the world safe for gourmands for men. A*Men smelled shockingly like mint chocolate chip ice cream, but retained its masculinity thanks to lavender and plenty of that same earthy, mothball-like patchouli seen in Angel.

tom ford noir extreme

Since its release, it has spawned plenty of variations. In addition to all the A*Men flankers (including my favorite, A*Men Pure Malt), other gourmand-friendly lines like Hanae Mori and Viktor & Rolf have offered up sweet scents for men. Take HM (1997), a crazy but appealing mix of candy notes, lavender and lemon. Later, in 2000, came Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, a delicious licorice fougère. And the release of Spicebomb in 2012, with all its smoky, leathery tobacco goodness, felt like a masculine gourmand revival.

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L’Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis : Perfume Review

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I love a good gourmand. Weaving notes of vanilla, caramel, and other delicious things, fragrances in this genre are my ultimate comfort blankets. The moment that days get shorter and mornings cold, the tray above my perfume drawer starts to fill up with my favorite gourmands–Pink Sugar, Lolita Lempicka, Kenzo L’Éléphant, Parfums de Nicolaï Vanille Tonka and L’Artisan Traversée du Bosphore.

The latter is interesting because the sweetness of Turkish delight and vanilla are balanced by a generous dose of crisp green notes and saffron. Created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, Traversée du Bosphore is an example of contrasted gourmand I especially enjoy. Wearing it is exciting, because one moment you experience a fresh breeze and the next a voluptuous embrace. This also seemed to be the premise of Noir Exquis, a fragrance by Duchaufour that blends rich notes of candied chestnuts, coffee and tonka bean with orange blossom and citrus.

marzipan fruit

Since Noir Exquis is meant for both men and women, it doses sugar lightly and instead emphasizes the woody, balsamic layers. At first, it’s earthy and nutty, hinting at its patchouli and coffee soon to follow, but there are enough floral accents to brighten up the darkness. Based on the name, I expected something heavy and rich, but Noir Exquis is unexpectedly radiant.

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Byredo Seven Veils Perfume Review

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Elisa takes a look at Byredo.

Is there anything new or interesting left to do with orientals? You’d be forgiven for thinking “I doubt it.” They’ve been around since at least the late 19th century, and their popularity hasn’t waned; we’ve probably seen thousands of variations on the basic structure of perfumes like Coty L’Origan and Guerlain Shalimar. But perfume will always surprise you – Thierry Mugler Angel came pretty late in the game (1992) and introduced a totally new idea to the oriental genre.

byredo

Byredo’s Seven Veils is one recent perfume that completely subverted my expectations. The name refers to the biblical story of Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” – an orientalist version of the striptease – and it’s fitting, because the perfume unfolds in layers. It opens with a classically rooty iris note, a big whoosh of raw, starchy carrots – which is, frankly, exactly the kind of thing I usually dislike. But I stuck with it, and within ten minutes I knew it wasn’t just another chalky iris soliflore. Rather, Seven Veils is a boozy oriental with a spicy root-vegetable twist.

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Thierry Mugler Oriental Express : Perfume Review

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What happens if you take iris, a note from the cool spectrum of a perfumer’s palette, and make it dark, smoky and sweet? The result is a new take on the oriental fragrance family, with lots of surprises. This is exactly what Thierry Mugler’s Oriental Express accomplishes.  A part of Thierry Mugler’s Les Exceptions collection, which also includes Chyprissime, Supra Floral, Fougère Furieuse, and Over The Musk, Oriental Express is a twist on the traditional theme. The idea behind the collection is to offer modern, novel interpretations of classical fragrance families.

Thierry Mugler

Easier said than done, especially in the case of the so-called oriental family. Loaded with balsams, sandalwood, vanilla, and incense, the oriental compositions have a very strong character, and to offer something new and different, yet still classical, requires unconventional choices. To solve this dilemma, perfumers Jean-Christophe Hérault and Olivier Polge took the direction of Shalimar.

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  • Michael in Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa : Perfume Review: Thanks for the interesting review, Victoria! One of my favourite coffee based fragrances is the (now sadly discontinued) Jo Malone Stephanotis & Cassia Coffee Cologne, a wonderful fusion of heady… October 22, 2017 at 12:15am

  • Carla in Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa : Perfume Review: This sounds so interesting. I wonder who the perfumer is. Your description is excellent as usual; I can imagine it. I’ll have to get a sample. I’m not a fan… October 21, 2017 at 4:21pm

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